Stray incidents of violence marred the second phase of polling in West Bengal on Thursday which saw 76.07 per cent of the 4938346 electorate exercising their franchise in three seats where voting took place. The highest polling of 82.76 per cent was recorded in Jalpaiguri (SC) seat, 73.31 per cent in Raigunj seat and 72.14 per cent in Darjeeling seat, state chief electoral officer Ariz Aftab said.
Aftab described the elections as "peaceful" with only a few isolated incidents of violence. "It was a peaceful election today. There are a few isolated incidents of violence at a few places - Chopra in Raigunaj, Kalimpong in Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri but nothing major," Aftab said.
The EC till 5 PM received 56 complaints from the three constituencies and "all were responded to properly," he said. At least 30 people were arrested as a preventive measure while another three were nabbed for specific reasons. Eight FIRs were lodged in different cases, he added.
Special Police Observer Vivek Dubey described the voting as "more or less peaceful" barring "a few isolated incidents". Reports from Uttar Dinajpur district, where Raiganj is located, said majority of the incidents were reported from Chopra and nearby Islampur. Voters of Chopra put up a road blockade in protest against absence of central forces at the polling stations, an official said.
State police rushed to the spot and when the protestors threw stones at them, fired in the air and burst tear gas shells to control them. Bombs were also hurled by miscreants, a senior EC official in the district said.
Several police personnel were injured in the incident, he said adding. Polling in the area resumed when voters were escorted to their repsective polling booths by security personnel, ADG (Law and Order) S N Gupta said.
A reporter and a camera person of a local news channel were manhandled when they went to cover polling at Kataphulbari in the Raiganj constituency, he said adding an FIR was lodged in connection with it. In another area of the constituency EVMs were damaged by miscreants and were immediately replaced. "The voting was not stopped and we have lodged an FIR in this regard," said an EC official.
Dubey said, "Small incidents will always occur but there was no big incident". Special Observer for West Bengal Ajay V Nayak also echoed Dubey’s views.
CPI(M) candidate from Raiganj, Md Salim claimed that his car was attacked by unknown persons when he went to a polling booth at Islampur. "I got to know of rigging in that booth. After I reached the polling station, some people attacked my car. Though I am unhurt, the vehicle has been damaged. I believe the Trinamool Congress is behind the incident," Salim alleged.
The EC lodged an FIR against Jan Andolan Party (JAP) president Harka Bahadur Chettri for entering a booth at Kalimpong government junior school and casting his vote while talking on his mobile phone. It also removed the presiding officer of the booth.
According to rules, mobile phones are not allowed within 100-metre of a polling booth. "I had no knowledge that mobile phones are not allowed inside polling booths. Nobody told me about it. Had I known I would have deposited the phone to the security officers before entering," Chettri, a prominent leader in the Darjeeling Hills, said.
The EC had deployed 194 companies of central forces to cover 80 per cent of the over 5,000 booths in the three Lok Sabha constituencies. TMC has fielded Bijoy Chandra Barman against BJP’s Jayanta Kumar Roy in Jalpaiguri constituency, where Moni Kumar Darnal of Congress and Bhagirath Chandra Roy of CPI(M) are also in the fray.
In Darjeeling the TMC nominated Amar Singh Rai to take on Raju Bisht of BJP, Sankar Malakar of Congress and Saman Pathak of CPI(M). Kanhaiyalal Agarwal was nominated by the ruling party in the state in Raiganj seat against Md Salim of CPI(M), Deepa Dasmunshi of Congress and Debashree Chowdhury of BJP.